Like a lot of proper geeks, I received a video game for Christmas. Battlefield 3 to be specific. Because I have a long history with the Battlefield series, many of my XBL friends also play this game, but have purchased map packs (of course), which means I pretty much have to purchase the map packs.

The day after Christmas I fired up my XBox and hopped online. I tried to purchase the Back to Karkand map, only be be met with an error and status code:

Can’t retrieve information from Xbox LIVE. Please try again later.

Status code: 80169D94

Oh boy, “Try again later.” Riiiiiight…

I was patient, figuring that maybe XBL was overloaded because of the holiday. I tried again this morning before 9 AM when load would surely be less. Same thing. I even went to Best Buy yesterday and purchased a 1600 point XBL card in an attempt to work around the problem; thinking maybe it was credit card related. No dice.

Some Google-ing turned up a great article by Brad Feld. The article revealed a couple of important facts: 1) this code means your account is on some sort of billing lock, and 2) that XBL support would likely fail to resolve the issue on the first shot. What follows is how I managed to get resolution in about 30 minutes.

Before calling XBL support

  • Make sure you have your live.com login and password handy (I use 1Password, yay!)
  • Log in to http://billing.microsoft.com and update/verify all your payment information
    • Is your billing address correct?
    • Is the card on file expired?
    • Have you ever had to dispute any charges from XBL?
  • Fire up your XBox and:
    • Press the Guide/Dashboard button in the center of the controller
    • Go to Settings, Account Management
    • Move right one panel to “Your Memberships” and select your subscription
    • Select “Change Payment Options” and verify that the card in use is active and all details are correct
  • Jot down some notes about your issue
    • The exact message and status code you received
    • Any steps you’ve taken to attempt self-resolution (like this list here!)
    • If you’re redeeming an XBL card, write the code out using the NATO Phonetic alphabet (handy bash script here for nerds among you); you’ll need to repeatedly provide this number to the support rep

Calling XBL support

When I called XBL support, Hector (my rep) first insisted that my account was not locked. He attempted to add the points to my account three or four times while I read him the code from the card (ugh that was painful). Hector’s diagnosis was that the store had not properly activated the card and that I should go back to Best Buy. Having watched the clerck activate the card, I wasn’t prepared to let him off the phone, so I pressed further.

In my case, I had resolved a dispute with XBL in August of last year regarding some unauthorized purchases. I explained this to the rep, along with the steps I had already taken, and pressed him to look in to my error message further. I reiterated that he might need the status code I received, which he made note of, and placed me on hold while he did his support joo-joo.

When Hector returned, he acknowledged that the acount was “locked” afterall, and that, if I could verify all my billing information was correct, he could unlock it. I had already updated my info, so I gave him the green light to unlock. Bingo! The card worked immediately.

What might be different about your situation

It seems to me that this status code is probably related to billing lock for reasons related to fraudulent activity. It might not be constrained to fraudulent activity, but I found plenty of other status codes covering other reasons. This appears to be one of the few status codes not covered by the XBL support website, and when searching, I didn’t see any results returned for xbox.com. It’s almost as if Microsoft purposefully avoids keeping information related to this code out in the open.

I suspect I was able to get a resolution quickly because I supplied the dates of my previous support incident. The rep was able to look up my resolution and unlock the account on his own because my account had already been “released” by the fraud department. The delay that Brad Feld experienced likely relates to the tiered structure of XBL support. Fraud is handled by an entirely different department, which in my experience, is staffed by much more competent staff. The problem is that they’re almost always backlogged.

All of the above is speculation on my part, but a large part of what I do is troubleshooting large organizations. I hack people as much as I do technology, and I have a pretty good track record of building an accurate internal picture of how a company works without actually stepping inside.

Hopefully this write up augments the other information you’ll find when searching for information on 80169D94.